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Cottonwood Heights Journal

There’s a New School in Town

Sep 29, 2016 03:53PM ● By Carol Hendrycks

Wasatch Charter School opened its doors for the first time this fall. (Carol Hendrycks/City Journals)

By Carol Hendrycks | [email protected]

Just one week into school, Emily Merchant, executive director for the new Wasatch Charter School on Holladay Murray Road, said she is thrilled with how the school has been received by the community. 

The new school has 540 enrolled students, which includes kindergarten through eighth grade and students from several counties, and also embraces children with learning disabilities. 

According to Merchant, the school curriculum and model is based on the Waldorf Education Model, which provides a learning environment with lots of movement, a focus in the arts and music and a collaborative staff that teaches with a holistic approach. 

The philosophy behind this model emphasizes imagination in learning, integrating intellectual, practical and artistic development, which was introduced and founded by Rudolf Steiner in 1919. This is the first Utah school to adopt this approach to learning via creative play, with elementary education focused on artistic expression, social interaction, critical reasoning and empathic understanding.

During the tour Merchant provided, all students were engaged in hands-on projects or watched their teacher demonstrate an activity. 

Collaboration among teachers and staff plays a key role in the success of this curriculum, Merchant said. The faculty, which includes 26 teachers, administrative staff and building developers, also works closely together to help create an environment that inspires the social interaction critical to producing the creativity and child development that is reflected in this academic approach. 

The campus is inviting and fits in well with the outdoors. The indoor areas and classrooms are open, well-lit spaces with color schemes that were specifically chosen to encourage calm but creative spaces. 

“We created an environment where children can really flourish, which is a key objective for art and movement to blend together,” Merchant said.

Merchant holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and elementary education from the University of Utah and a master’s in education from Antioch University with a focus on administration and Waldorf teaching. 

She said is excited to have her own three children attending the school as well in eighth, fifth and second grades. Merchant said children are thriving and enjoy telling her about their day. 

Merchant says the school is still under construction in some areas, but they are moving through concerns just like any new school or business would. Merchant said they are looking forward to having a public open house very soon and invites the surrounding communities to stop by to experience a truly one-of-a-kind school in Utah.